I haven’t done a lot of blogging this year, but, don’t worry, I’ve still been watching a ton of movies! I’ve even been keeping track of everything I’ve watched or read in a pair of Composition Note Books that I’ve (not so) cleverly dubbed Pop Notes. Thanks to them, I’m pretty confident looking back at the year and piecing together thoughts on some of my fave film-watching experiences (minus horror, which will get a list or two of their own). This one’s pretty long, so hit that jump and get into it!Continue reading My Favorite Film Experiences Of 2018
When it comes to straight-ahead likeable action stars, few have done it better than Jackie Chan. He built up an incredible body of work before breaking through in the U.S. which meant that, for many of us, we could start off with something like Rumble In The Bronx and then go on to discover the Armor of God or Police Story movies. He’s even carried his unique brand of humor and still-impressive action into more recent films like the incredible Chinese Zodiac. However, thanks to a review Blu-ray of The Foreigner, I now see him in a very different light.
I thought about calling this post “We Want Old Man Action’ but thought it might get a lot of the wrong kinds of hits. Well, now that I’ve typed that I guess I’ll get them anyway! But, I’ve got to say, I was very impressed with both Sabotage and Chinese Zodiac which are anchored by stars the 67-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-58-year-old Jackie Chan respectively.
I don’t remember hearing much in the way of good reviews about David Ayer’s Sabotage. After having seen the film, I have a feeling that people didn’t show up because they didn’t want to watch “a Schwarzenegger film.” It’s too bad for them because, this is a tight, sometimes sinister thriller about a squad of DEA agents who tried to steal a ton of drug money, failed and start getting murdered one by one.
Plot-wise, this sounds like the kind of 80s or 90s action movies that don’t live up to the emotional heaviness inherent in their plots, but that’s not the case here. Schwarzenegger’s squad includes Sam Worthington, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos, Max Martini, Kevin Vance and Mark Schlegel all of who balance the reckless after-hours antics of these agents with the ridiculously serious and proficient way they go about their actual jobs. They each bring different levels of intensity to their characters that, when combined with a breakneck pace, intense moments of violence and cops played by Olivia Williams and Harold Perrineau, make for an incredibly engaging and intriguing film.
Much like with The Last Stand and even Escape Plan to a lesser extent, I thought Schwarzenegger did a great job of being in a film that doesn’t so much rely on him running around and getting into fist fights or blowing people away, but instead lets him do some actual acting work (while also firing the occasional weapon, of course). If that last sentence sounds like crazy-talk to you, just look at Ayer’s other films like End Of Watch, Fury and Training Day and ask if you think he’d make a silly action film.
If you are looking for something a little bit more silly and fun, then I highly recommend Chinese Zodiac which Jackie Chan starred in and also directed. I’ve read that the movie takes some cues from Chan’s earlier films Armour Of God and Operation Condor (or Armour Of God 2: Operation Condor as it’s also known), but I still haven’t seen those all the way through and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything not being familiar with them.
In the movie, Chan plays a master thief who, along with his crew, agrees to steal back a series of Zodiac statue heads that were pillaged from China about 150 years ago. This job sends them all over the world from locales as diverse as a huge mansion to a large boat in the middle of a jungle protected by pirates.
I love the adventure aspects of this movie that felt like they borrowed well from the Indiana Jones films. I also really enjoyed the action elements. Chan handles a lot of them on his own, but his crew also proves to be more than capable fighters and entertainers at the same time. I was a little worried that he might look stiff or that he might use a fill in like Chuck Norris did in the awful The Cutter. Instead, he’s as spry as I remember him which is nice because the last newer Chan movie I watched, Gorgeous, was a big disappointment.
I’m happy to say that Chinese Zodiac reminded me of Chan’s action-comedy masterpiece Police Story and it’s follow-up. In addition to being a fun action movie, it also has an interesting message about the complexity of the world’s relationship with ancient artifacts, especially ones that were removed from one place where they were revered and taken to another place where they became equally important.
While Sabotage and Chinese Zodiac are very different movies, I liked them both very much both because they’re good in and of themselves, but they also show that these two action stars can still do their thing. To paraphrase Stan Lee in Mallrats, if they keep making these movies, I’ll keep watching them true believers!
First and foremost, if you’re a fan of Joss Whedon’s Buffy: The Vampire Slayer or Angel and don’t already have all the seasons on DVD, Amazon’s Gold Box Deal today finds both complete sets on sale for $60 and $55 respectively.
The biggest action release of the week also happens to be a zombie flick. The Brad Pitt global undead thriller World War Z hits home video today in a variety of formats.
We here at Explosions Are Rad are big fans of The CW’s Arrow. If you missed out on the first season you can catch up now thanks to Arrow: The Complete First Season before the second season kicks off on October 9th.
Bruce Lee fans might want to check out Bruce Lee – A Warrior’s Journey/Pursuit Of The Dragon. Journey features previously lost footage from Lee’s last film The Game Of Death while Pursuit “follows the chronology” of The Big Boss, Fists Of Fury, The Way Of The Dragon and Enter The Dragon.
Another interesting martial arts double feature released today comes from Shout Factory and Timeless Media: Jackie Chan: Beginnings – Snake & Crane Arts of Shaolin / Magnificent Bodyguards. This double feature collects two of the six films he made in 1978 alone!
*Friday Night Fights presents crazy fight and battle scenes from movies with little-to-no context. If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll probably want to skip the clip. *
An epic 8 minute fight between Jackie Chan and Ken Lo in the 1994 movie The Legend Of Drunken Master (a.k.a. Drunken Master II, Jui kuen II and Drunken Fist II). What more do you need to know? Just watch the awesomeness.
We here at Explosions Are Rad are big fans of the mash-up action-fests better known as The Expendables movies. The brainchild of Sylvester Stallone, the films bring together some of the best and brightest action stars of all time together offering explosions, fight scenes and gunplay worth the price of admission alone.
If you’re a fan of the franchise, you really need to follow Stallone on Twitter (he’s @TheSlyStallone). The legendary action star took to social media today to not only announce that Bruce Willis won’t return for The Expendables 3, but also that he’ll be replaced by Harrison Ford. “WILLIS OUT… HARRISON FORD IN !!!! GREAT NEWS !!!!! Been waiting years for this!!!!”
He followed that up with what seems like a slam against Willis who appeared as Mr. Church in the first two Expendables movies. “GREEDY AND LAZY …… A SURE FORMULA FOR CAREER FAILURE”
Willis’ Mr. Church played an important role in both films. In the first, he hired the team to invade Valena and in the second he uses their failure in the first movie as leverage to send them out to get a device that winds up putting them in direct opposition to Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Vilain. He even got in on the action alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the second film. Will Ford do the same in 3? We sure hope so.
Last month, Stallone also said via Twitter that the new film, directed by Red Hill‘s Patrick Hughes, will feature real life fighters Ronda Rousey and Victor Ortiz as well. Hopefully, they fall into Randy Couture territory and turn out to be super watchable on screen. The film is also said to star Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Couture, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Nicolas Cage, Mickey Rourke, Jackie Chan, Kellan Lutz, Milla Jovovich, Wesley Snipes and many more.
Like a lot of people my age, I was introduced to Jackie Chan in the 90s when he was just breaking through in the States with flicks like Rumble In The Bronx. Some people knew him before that from imported action flicks, though I was not worldly enough to be one of them. I have since gone back and tried to watch as many of his earlier films as possible. Drunken Master really wowed me, but I’ve also become a fan of the first two Police Story films which did a really great job of mixing comedy and action, something Chan was and still is famous for.
In this flick, Jackie plays a cop named Jackie (at least in the English dub, which is how I watched the movie). He’s part of a team sent out to take down a mob boss and his goons, but as you might expect, things don’t go in his favor. The initial mission gets botched, people get away, witness need protecting, a trial happens and everything ends with a big crazy action sequence in a mall at the very end.
While the film is firmly in the action/comedy genre, I’d say it leans more towards action. Jackie gets pushed to the edge (after having some funnier moments with the lady witness he’s supposed to be protecting) and he really goes a little crazy, going so far as to kidnap the police chief and punch a man with glasses! Unlike some of his more recent films, though, you really get the sense that this Jackie could do something really dangerous or stupid and get himself in some serious trouble.
Which is interesting because the real Jackie Chan got into some real trouble during this film and almost died. That big mall scene I mentioned has a part where he slides down a big metal pole with Christmas lights around it. They had a higher wattage going through them than they should and his hands got burned on the way down. As if that wasn’t enough he stopped breathing after a stunt where he flipped through glass. Obviously, he wound up being okay, but that’s an element of these movies that I really do like: they look and feel dangerous. I don’t want to see real people get hurt, but if real people get hurt on purpose while getting paid to make a movie and it looks cool, I guess that’s not so bad. Talk about a moral loophole.
The best part about the movie, though, is that it doesn’t feel like action porn, like you’re just killing time until the next action setpiece. Chan is super charming and funny and fun to watch, he’s got good co-stars to work with and, oh yeah, the action scenes are bad ass. The opening scene was swiped pretty heavily in Bad Boys II and features a huge gun battle followed very closely by several cars literally driving though a shanty town on the side of the hill. It’s insane and awesome. That’s followed by several different fight scenes, but my personal favorite is the most obvious: the end one in the mall. Malls are such weird places anyway, you put any kind of genre movie in that setting and I’m sold.
So, if you think that Jackie Chan only makes goofy kid movies or co-stars with Chris Tucker, do yourself a favor and check out Police Story, Police Story 2 (which I’ll be watching next week) and Drunken Master (which I really need to review on here). They are fantastic and really show how great an action comedy can be without sacrificing elements of either genre.